ARRANGER STORIES - VERSIONE INGLESE
by Crystal Jones
Sir Ian smiled as Lady Sylvia arrived. “Sylvia, I’m so glad
you could make it! Can I get you something to drink?”
“White wine, please, Ian. You know perfectly well I’d never
miss an opportunity to help my favourite charity!”
Sir Ian smiled when he heard Lady Sylvia’s voice whose rich
tones reminded him of the Caribbean islands.
“You’ll be happy to know that we have spent the money that
was raised at Christmas on new equipment for our Children’s Hospital!”
“Excellent, Ian! But I’m sure that you’re already planning to
find more funds for something else!” said Lady Sylvia picking up an
appetiser. She was in her late forties –
nobody knew her exact age - but was still an attractive woman, not so much
beautiful in the modern sense of perfect plastic features, but she managed
to fill a room with her friendly smile and humanity.
Sir Ian blushed slightly. “Well, we do have an urgent
problem. It seems that there are structural problems in the Baxter
Ward – you know, where we treat very seriously ill children, but…”
“You lack funds!” broke in Lady Sylvia. “I’ll see what I can
Lady Sylvia was known as a very humane and generous person.
Her husband, Lord Reginald, had been lost to her to pneumonia but she
deliberately filled her days always having something interesting or
worthwhile to do. Her visits to London were weekly – she never missed a
premier of a good play or musical, but also loved her country estate with
its horses, squirrels and rabbits.
All present were members of the LHCN Let’s Help Children
Now charity which held their meetings at the Children’s Hospital. Most
members knew one another and Lady Sylvia was happy to be there to find out
about the latest plans for the hospital. A cocktail party was arranged there
every few months or so and Sir Ian was always very happy when new members
came along for the first time but now he wanted to speak to an old friend.
“Er…Sylvia! Would you like to pop into my office for a moment
– I’ve got something to show you!” asked Sir Ian.
“Fine, let’s go!” replied Lady Sylvia wondering what on earth
Sir Ian was being so mysterious about.
Sir Ian opened the door of his office and invited Lady Sylvia
to sit down.
“You know we have quite a number of anonymous benefactors,
but there is one who is… well, rather special. May I show you the record of
her latest contribution?”
Lady Sylvia gazed at the sum seemingly bewildered, “Oh, yes.
Thirty thousand pounds – Thelma Argento. Is she Italian?”
Sir Ian smiled knowingly, “Oh yes, it’s possible – that is,
no-one knows who she is or has ever met her. She’s not in the telephone
directory either – all we know is that her cheques are always honoured!”
“Well, if she sends you another cheque let’s hope it’ll be
honoured too!” exclaimed Lady Sylvia.
“I’m sure it will be! It’s just that I can’t thank her
enough. Do you think I will ever meet her, Sylvia – or perhaps I have
“Well, maybe you have. You never can tell, can you?”
“By the way Sylvia, ‘Argento’ is Italian for silver, I
“Oh, really! Shall we get back to the party, Ian?” said Lady
Sylvia getting up from her chair.
As Lady Sylvia got ready for bed that night she mused, “So
Sir Ian seems to have guessed that I am Thelma Argento - but he certainly
doesn’t know that I am The Arranger!”
Lady Sylvia rang for her butler. “Alex,” she said, turning
down her CD of jazz of the thirties. “I have a little job for you.”
Alex was officially Lady Sylvia’s butler but this was only an
excuse for his presence in the mansion where he had his own apartments on
the second floor in the east wing, including a laboratory for developing his
unique inventions and a huge wardrobe of clothes for his
manifold disguises. Alex used to work for a
film company as a make-up artist but went on to become a special effects and
prosthetics designer capable of supplying a whole range of realistic
monsters for science fiction films and television programmes. In time he had
developed his own special techniques which took the art of disguise onto a
new level of perfection. Working for Lady Sylvia, he sometimes acted as her
butler in front of visitors, which he didn’t mind doing at all as this gave
him the perfect façade he needed.
Lady Sylvia waited until the maid had left the room and then
continued, “Pierre Amsang has just telephoned me. The Lucrezia Borgia casket
“Our Lucrezia Borgia casket?
“Yes, the very one. That is, the one in her famous portrait!
It’s up for auction next Tuesday at ten o’clock, it’s the first item on the
“Up for auction… but where has it resurfaced from?” replied
the astonished Alex.”
“From a legitimate antique dealer, a certain Alfred
Cooper-Browne who died in a road accident a week or so ago!”
“Never heard of him! But how is it he had the casket?”
“Apparently he was a friend of Fahmu Ishmail’s!” replied Lady
“Ah, that gentleman who stole the casket from us!”
“Yes. It seems that when Pierre Amsang and Fahmu Ishmail, not
to mention us, snatched the casket two months’ ago, while it was being
transported to the Moscow museum for an exhibition and substituted it with a
perfect copy you took months to make in your laboratory, our friend
Fahmu contracted a gang to steal it from us.”
“Then it is true that he was at the bottom of everything!”
Alex pointed out.
“Yes, as we thought! As you know, Ishmail is an antique
dealer with no antique shop and I imagine that fearing that if he kept it at
his house, even in a safe, we would pay a little visit to his home…”
Alex nodded, “In fact we did burgle his home and even
opened up his guaranteed burglar-proof safe but the casket wasn’t there. We
thought that he might have put it in a security box in the bank or
“Well,” Lady Sylvia commented, “I imagine he may have thought
twice about that. If the bank had been broken into, the robbers might have
opened his security box and discovered the casket – or the police
afterwards! The safest place to hide something is where there are similar
things – in an antique shop!”
“The crafty so-and-so!” remarked Alex.
“Not so crafty, as destiny took a hand in ruining his plans.
Ishmail’s friend died suddenly and
apparently our ex-partner has no documentary evidence that the casket was
his, so everything is going to be sold at auction – of course, the
casket is being advertised in the catalogue as a copy!” explained Lady
“So we go and bid for it like everybody else?”
“Well, Pierre Amsang will go to the auction and act for us as
well. As we know it’s the real McCoy, whilst the others think it’s just a
copy, it shouldn’t be any problem at all but...” Lady Sylvia hesitated.
“But the problem is Ishmail, isn’t it?” said Alex.
“Yes. We have to find a way of stopping him from arriving at the auction in
time so that Pierre Amsang can bid for the casket without having a rival
bidder who also knows how much it’s really worth. Alex, this time it seems
we have the opportunity of getting our own back on Ishmail.”
Now it was time for Alex to do his homework. He drove to Mr.
Ishmail’s out-of-town residence and studied the ‘geography’ carefully. He
knew that their former friend lived alone in a beautifully refurbished
Tudor-style house with a small garden in front and a garage where he kept
his 1935 Grand Mercedes.
Alex also discovered that Ishmail had a cleaning lady every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which meant that on Tuesday, the day of the
auction, Ishmail would be alone in his house.
The next Tuesday morning Alex “borrowed” a van from a car
park in a busy town centre. He then drove to the village where Mr. Ishmail
lived and parked the van a few yards away from the entrance of his garage.
Alex had transformed his appearance into a much younger man with black hair
pulled back in a ponytail who was wearing the very latest jeans and
As he saw the garage door sliding up he prepared himself.
Just as Mr. Ishmail came out of his garage in his Mercedes, Alex moved
forward blocking the entrance to the house with the van.
“Can you move that van – I can’t get out?” bawled the very
rich Mr. Ishmail, getting out of his vintage
Mercedes, who was
used to ordering people around and looked very anxiously at his watch.
Alex got out of the van. “Are you talking to me?” he
replied in a very posh accent.
“Yes I am. Move your van at once - I’ve got a very important
meeting to go to!” Mr. Ishmail kept looking at his watch.
“A ve-ry im-portant meet-ing?” continued Alex raising his
eyebrows and smiling at Mr. Ishmail ironically. “If you ask me politely –
very politely – I might!”
“I haven’t got time for this – I’m calling the police…” The
exasperated Mr. Ishmail pulled his mobile out of his pocket and started
dialling a number but Alex leaned over the gate and snatched his mobile away
“Hey, that’s very interesting - a gold-plated version of the
very one I’ve just bought! Very nice – expensive though!”
“How dare you – give me my mobile back immediately!” shouted
Mr. Ishmail, now torn between wanting two things at the same time, his
mobile and going to the auction.
“You’re a bit of a show-off – aren’t you?” Alex took a couple of steps back
and suddenly threw the mobile up in the air saying “Hooray!” and then caught
it like a juggler.
“I’ll have you arrested,” retorted Mr. Ishmail who was
getting very red in the face by now.
“Go on then! That’ll be an interesting experience. Have
you ever been arrested?”
Mr. Ishmail began to look very tense, “Are you mad? What is
it you want – do you want money?”
Alex began singing in falsetto, “Money, money, money….” and
danced around on the pavement in front of the gate.
Mr. Ishmail began to fear the man in front of him was a
madman and spoke in a very nervous high pitched voice, “Look, I’ve really
got to go now, I’ll give you my watch if you move your van immediately,” he
said taking off his expensive watch and offering it to Alex.
“Too flash for me. All you need to say is sorry!”
Ten minutes had already passed and time was getting short for
Mr. Ishmail. But his
difficult character continued to get in his way.
“I’m not saying sorry to you or anybody else!” he said
aggressively and opened the garden gate with his remote control as though he
had finally decided to do something about it.
Alex shook his finger at him like a schoolteacher, “Oh, you
naughty boy! You get angry when you can’t get your own way. Ok, you win,
here’s your mobile!”
Mr. Ishmail was astonished at this sudden change of heart.
Alex went to give it back to Fahmu who held his hand out to receive it but
at the last minute Alex threw it over the gate into a bed of roses
surrounded by long grass in the garden in
front of the house.
“I’m sure a bit of lawn-mowing wouldn’t go amiss!” Alex
joked. “Anyway I’m late, I can’t let you keep me any longer. Bye bye.”
Alex suddenly turned round, got into the van and drove away
while Mr. Ishmail was looking frantically for his gold-plated mobile amongst
When Alex was out of sight, he parked the van in a side
turning and walked back to the main road down which Mr. Ishmail was bound to
drive along, as it was the quickest route to the motorway. There were signs
up saying ‘Road Works Ahead - No cars allowed.’ Alex made sure no one was
around, picked the signs up and hid them behind a tree.
A couple of minutes later Fahmu was driving his Grand
Mercedes along, free at last to go to the auction. He even began whistling
his favourite tune to himself when he suddenly realised that there was a
barrier up across the road and a policeman waving at him to stop.
“Can’t you read, sir – or are you just deliberately ignoring
the road works signs at the beginning of the road?” the constable asked him
“What road works signs are you talking about?” replied Mr.
Ishmail very defensively. “There were none!”
“Oh really, then if you will reverse your car back twenty
yards or so we’ll both have a look to see if you’re right!”
Alex, in the mean time, had replaced the missing signs.
When the policeman and Fahmu arrived at the beginning of the
road the antiquarian began to protest that the signs weren’t there a few
“Well, if you say you can’t see that there are road
works signs there, I seriously question your eyesight and ability to drive.
Sir, can I have your driving license, please?”
In the meantime Alex had returned to the van. He then drove
back to the car park where its owner had originally left it,
carefully wiping any part of the van he might have
touched, for good measure, even though he had worn gloves all the time.
Finally Alex pulled out a carefully prepared envelope from his pocket
with a hundred pounds in it and left it in the glove compartment to repay
the unknown owner for the “rental” of his vehicle.
When Mr. Ishmail finally got to his destination he was
perspiring freely as it was already five minutes to ten!
The auction house was a tall Edwardian building
with rows of windows making it look rather forbidding. An elegant
young lady wearing a dark navy-blue suit was waiting for him at the door.
Can I help you sir?” she asked him, and when he told her he was looking for
the Cooper-Browne jewellery collection she said she would accompany him
there herself. Mr. Ishmail was so full of his own importance that he didn’t
doubt she had been laid on especially by the auction organisers.
As they turned to go leftwards, Fahmu pointed to the display
board on the wall which said that the Cooper-Browne collection was on the
second floor. The young lady replied, “That’s the Cooper-Browne collection
of books – didn’t you say you were interested in the jewellery?”
Looking anxiously at his watch, Mr. Ishmail was barely polite
when he said, “Yes, yes – take me there as quickly as possible – there’s
something on auction which I’ve been after for years. It’s the only one of
its type and I can’t afford to miss buying it! I’m already late!” April, the
young lady, walked the anxious client along a corridor which lead to an even
longer corridor which never seemed to end. The antiquarian was getting more
and more bad-tempered every minute.
“Where on earth are you taking me? You don’t seem to
understand! I haven’t got time to waste – I must get to the auction
“Yes sir. I’m taking you there!” They rushed along even more
corridors until Mr. Ishmail could bear it no longer, “What’s this infernal
labyrinth you’re taking me through now? You’re making me loose a unique
“No sir. Don’t worry! We’ll be there in a jiffy. Now down
these steps and we’ll get to the lift!” However the steps let to yet another
long corridor on the left. When they reached the end of it, they discovered
there was a barrier with a note stuck onto it saying ‘No Entrance!’
“Oh, what a nuisance, we’ll have to go back to the stairs and
turn right…!” April started to explain.
Mr. Ishmail muttered angrily to himself in his mother tongue,
too breathless to complain to April.
“Just be patient for a moment sir – we’re arriving – look -
we’ve nearly reached the lift - ah, there it is!” April said triumphantly.
As the lift door opened, Mr. Ishmail was just going to get
inside when he exclaimed with a horrified expression on his face, “What sort
of a lift do you think this is? It’s full of bits of string and cardboard!”
“Yes I know, it’s a service lift because the other lift isn’t
working due to flooding in the basement!”
“Flooding? Oh no!” said Mr. Ishmail pushing April’s hand out
of the way, “let me press the button otherwise we’ll never get
Unfortunately for Mr. Ishmail the button he had pressed was
for one floor down and they ended up in the warehouse!
“Look here, Miss… just leave me alone and I’ll
get there on my own!” replied Mr. Ishmail looking around in desperation.
April got out of the lift and thought it a good opportunity
to do as he said and disappear completely, so she hid behind a huge pile of
cartons. As soon as the lift door closed again, she made her way out of the
building and telephoned Monsieur Amsang’s secretary, who was also Pierre
“How’s the auction going, Sophie?” April asked.
Sophie replied excitedly, “It’s all over, April! Mr. Nasty
turned up just as the auctioneer slammed down his gavel for the last time!
He looked really pitiful!”
“And did you manage to buy the casket?”
”Yes, we did! None of the other bidders seemed to know that it’s worth a
fortune and it went for only three thousand eight hundred pounds!”
April then phoned Lady Sylvia to tell her the good news.
That evening Ishmail Fahmu had one of his worst evenings ever
realising how cleverly he had been set up whilst
Lady Sylvia, Alex, April, Pierre
Amsang and Sophie all dined together in an exclusive French restaurant in
Chelsea and celebrated their triumph with several bottles of the best
champagne until the early hours. Alex made the others laugh at the antics he
had had to get up to to prevent their former partner from attending the
auction. However, Lady Sylvia noticed that Pierre Amsang was deep in thought
as he pulled on his moustache repetitively. Whenever he did this, she knew
he had something up his sleeve. She wondered what it might be… was he about
to propose a new venture?
Back at her mansion next day, Lady Sylvia opened a secret
drawer in her escritoire where she kept her signet ring and a silver
candlestick. She lit the candle, poured some drops of hot wax
onto a sheet of paper, then pressed her
signet ring onto it.
Now in the middle of the sheet there was the
letter A, which stood for The Arranger, with a Latin inscription written
around it: semper victor, always victorious. Then she
addressed an envelope to Fahmu Ishmail, folded the sheet of paper carefully
and put it inside. After this Lady Sylvia wrote out a cheque to The
Children’s Hospital with a lot of noughts on it, signing herself Thelma
The Lucrezia Borgia casket was sold by Pierre Amsang the very
next day to a rich private collector with interests in the software
industry, for which he received a seven figure sum. Naturally, half of the
money went to Lady Sylvia. The Arranger had won again!